Wednesday, April 01, 2009

These people teach our children!

The teachers union struck back today with a letter-to-the-editor responding to Elizabeth Hovde's column Sunday which criticized the OEA for trying to kill the Oregon Connections Academy.

There is so much in the letter that is just idiotic and inane, I thought the best thing to do was to deconstruct it a bit, and point out the fallacies, non-sequitirs and demagoguery. As you read it, keep in mind that these people represent our TEACHERS. They spend every day with Oregon's kids. Is this an example of the quality of their thinking?

As you enjoy each example of flawed logic and deception, it is obvious that truth means nothing to these folks. It is simply about their own power and control.

My inserted commets will be in RED, just for ease of reading.

Vitual schools oversight
On Sunday, conservative columnist Elizabeth Hovde chided the Oregon Education Association for fighting for accountability, taxpayers and students [Here it begins... The OEA's attempt to shut down the largest elementary school in the state of Oregon is their idea of fighting for students! And fighting for accountability? Are you kidding me? The union stridently oppose ANY attempt to hold teachers accountable for student learning!]; opposed to siding with out-of-state corporations who profit off of Oregon's virtual charter schools. [You knew they couldn't wait for the second paragraph to roll out the "for profit out of state" scare card. First, ORCA is not "for profit." It is an Oregon non-profit corporation. Second, I suppose all curriculum companies that sell textbooks to our public schools are in-state non-profits? How about computer equipment companies? Or how about the union dues that get sent to NEA headquarters? Does that money stay in state?] ("Why should successful online public school bow to union?")

Her position lessens public accountability and is not supported by research. [I love it - "not supported by research..." And then she proceeds to discuss exactly zero research! Nor does she explain anything about how ORCA lessens accountability. For the union, accountability means "control by the union."]

Due to the ongoing economic crisis, Oregon public schools are faced with the painful choice of cutting instructional days, laying off teachers or eliminating quality education opportunities. [Interesting, isn't it, that ORCA isn't cutting days or eliminating its programs during this financial crisis. It is far more efficient than the union-run schools. ORCA spends, on average just about half the dollars per-student that the regular public schools spend. One would think if they were really interested in getting the most bang out of the educational dollar in Oregon that they would embrace virtual schooling. But then when did the teachers union ever want bang for the buck?]

The last thing we need is to spend limited taxpayer dollars on virtual programs that do not provide equal access to all students, [Is there any school in the state that provides "equal access" to all students? I am not sure what this means. If anything, virtual schools allow access to a public school option for lots of kids who had no access before. To claim virtuals reduce educational equity is ridiculous.]

...lack accountability for student achievement [ORCA is far, far more accountable for student achievement than any traditional district operated school. And guess what? Its students are succeeding. Latest test scores have ORCA students beating the state averagy by 9 points on reading. And remember - it is doing this with about half the per-student dollars!]

and go unregulated. [Another bald faced lie. Unregulated! This school has more oversight than any public school in the state. An annual audit, an annual third party evaluation, an annual third party parent survey (which shows about 95% satisfaction) and ODE regulators breathing down their backs at every turn. The OEA just says this stuff knowing it is false, but they think it sounds good. Truth is rarely their companion.]

To prevent this, the Oregon Education Association is part of a coalition supporting common-sense regulations [Here is the centerpiece of their "common sense regulation:" Their bill, SB767, would SHUT DOWN the K-6 grades of ORCA, eliminating the largest public elementary school in the state of Oregon. ]

...of for-profit corporations that operate publicly-funded online charter schools in Oregon. [Another lie. There are no for-profit corporations operating online charter schools in Oregon. ORCA is a non-profit corporation. All the teachers and staff are employees of the non-profit. It contracts with the for-profit service provider for curriculum, the learning system, etc. Just like other public schools buy all sorts of stuff from evil for-profit (out of state, even!) textbook publishers. The OEA knows this, but they would rather demagogue and lie to taint ORCA with what they think is the unpopular private sector association.]

The nation has seen what happens when corporations go unregulated. [More demagoguery. ORCA is highly regulated, and is not a for-profit corporation.]

Oregon taxpayers can't afford to be paying bonuses to out-of-state CEOs at the expense of our public schools. [Yet more ridiculous demagoguery, intended of course to impugn ORCA somehow with the bonuses paid to AIG. What bonuses is ORCA paying to out-of-state CEO's? None, of course. I do seem to remember a lot of payouts to various public school district "CEO's" when they get fired. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!]

We believe that charter schools can facilitate new and creative ways of teaching and learning. [Which of course is why they have tried to kill charters every single legislative session since the original bill - which they opposed - passed!]

We do not believe, however, that Oregon should sacrifice equity, accountability and transparency in the process. [In other words, we believe that union dominated traditional public schools, the same for everyone, with no consequences for providing a lackluster product, is the best thing for ... our members.]

The Oregon Legislature should approve Senate Bills 767 and 881 to ensure the educational quality of Oregon's virtual schools [By killing them.]

and to provide the necessary oversight of out-of-state corporations looking to do business. [Can we get the word "corporation" in here one more time?]

Oregon students deserve equal access to [union-controlled] public education and Oregon taxpayers deserve to know that their tax dollars are invested in the [union-controlled] classroom -- virtual or not.

GAIL RASMUSSEN Vice President, Oregon Education Association [The Teachers Union] Southwest Portland


ORCA Supporter said...

I suppose it's too much to hope that this ridiculous letter to the editor was a bad April Fools Joke?
Your responses, as usual, are right on. (AND "supported by research!")
The big bad Union, as usual, is spouting lies-lies-lies!

Anonymous said...

Yes, the exact same conclusion for me too. I think somebody should call the Oregonian and let them know they weren't entirely thorough. I believe on the reverse side of the letter, possibly in fine print, at the very bottom there was one last statement... P.S. APRIL FOOLS!

Anonymous said...

It's obvious the Oregonian op-ed page has absolutely no standards for their letter submissions when it comes to carrying the water for the now proven "maniacal" OEA teacher's union.

To print such a dishonest and disgusting letter is editorial malfeasance. Facilitating such a grand misrepresentation to the public while aiding in the worst of the worst smear lobbying is inexcusable.

Please fire off a note expressing your anger to the following people.,,,,

Anonymous said...

Unions will do anything to stay alive... lie, cheat, steal [votes,] etc. Charter schools (online or brick 'n mortar) are very successful, and the unions see this as a threat.

Anonymous said...

It's obvious the Oregonian op-ed page has absolutely no standards for their letter submissions when it comes to carrying the water for the now proven "maniacal" OEA teacher's union.

I've always thought The Oregonian editors maintain a strict double standard. One for those with whom they agree, like the OEA and SEIU. Another for everyone else. They know it, too.

Hamilton Burger said...

Rob, the deconstruction with the red letters was very effective. Please do it more often.

Mike Francis said...

To print such a dishonest and disgusting letter is editorial malfeasance.

As somebody who works in the editorial department, I must take exception to this. After all, the Rasmussen letter was written in response to a column with which I assume you would agree. Don't you believe that opponents deserve to respond, even if you find their arguments misleading and unpersuasive? How would The O. be serving its readers by publishing only one side of an issue?

I know this will invite sharp criticism of our own editorials and reporting, and that's fair game. But to attack us for publishing a letter from a recognized institution that is responding to a published column with which it disagreed is just unwarranted.

Just had to say that. Bracing now for the next round of "Funny Paper" references.

Rob Kremer said...

I am with Mike Francis on this one. I don't think they should refuse letters to the editor like the one from the OEA.

Even though the letter lied and distorted reality, it is good for them to print it. They shouldn't be in the business of suppressing letters from legitimate sources.

Plus, the letter stands on its own. When they print it, the true motives of the OEA are laid bare for all to see.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect Mike I think you have missed the critical part of the O's contribution that makes it out of line.
If it was your standard policy to allow such blatant misrepresentation and falsely accusatory letters there would be no out of line.
But I've read the O every day for probably 20 years and rarely if every have I read such a letter from the right.
Plenty of bizarre ones targeting Bush & Cheney but I guarantee, and you know it, that if I submitted a letter of that misrepresented and scurrilous content about the OEA (or Obama, or global warming) it would not find the printer.
In fact if I submitted an equally disparaging yet completely true letter about the OEA it would not be printed.

And I'm not talking about generic opinion and opposing viewpoints. It's the lies and accusations.

As you well know the the editorial department rejects letters which are obviously factually inaccurate and accusatory.
Of course, my charge is that the scrutiny is not even handed.
As demonstrated by the printing of this OEA letter.

Now, here you are suggesting no scrutinizing of letters occurs?

Hogwash. I've had letters refused, altered and [editorialized for clarification] prior to printing, without my approval.

I'm all for the editorial page printing letters of opposing viewpoints.

But this OEA letter was lying and accusations.

Having said that, and with further consideration, I see his point but I can't agree with Rob.
Due to the fact the most readers wouldn't have the luxury of context and history about the OEA treatment of charter schools I'm not so sure the true motives of the OEA would be very easy to see. The carefully crafted letter is far more likely to give a bad impression and taint the motives of ORCA, just as it was intended.

I'll be on the look-out for a letter using gross misrepresentations and accusations in targeting one of the paper's favorite institutions.

Anonymous said...

Remember last session when the OEA screwed their members by gaining control of Health Insurance, (the Oregon School Boards Assoc provided better plans at less cost) which raised overall premiums to school districts, and increased costs to individuals & their families through payroll deductions.

That said, the OEA is the most vile organization imaginable.

Rob Kremer said...

I think I could argue for a different standard for suppressing letters to the editor from individuals vs. from organizations.

I think the O should review letters from individuals for factual content, and to refuse to print letters that misrepresent or falsely accuse.

But if the same is done by an organization that everyone knows, they should go ahead and print it.

Why? Because in the case of the organization, their credibility is on the line. When they write such ridiculous and obvious lies, it is news in and of itself that they would do such a thing.

By NOT printing such a letter, the Oregonian would actually be suppressing relevant news - the news that the OEA is self-identifying as a lying, cheating, self-serving organization that has no compunction whatever about telling bald-faced lies in order to achieve a political goal.

So in a backhanded way, by suppressing such a letter, the paper would be keeping relevant information from the public.

Anonymous said...

Ok I can't entirely disagree.

However, the OEA letter was well outside the tenor of this discussion about suppressing opinion.
It was NOT simply a counterpoint or "response to a column" that some may have found to be "arguments that were misleading and unpersuasive" as Mike suggested. That's a sugar coated way of putting it. And although it was from a "legitimate source-organization" it was in no way within the bounds of acceptable reporting and commentary that Ms. Hovde obviously respected. Imagine the outrage had Hovde used the OEA standards and tactics.
In stark contrast to the Hovde commentary which reported and discussed the actual ongoing battle between ORCA and the OEA, the Rasmussen letter was a compilation of carefully crafted, disparaging depictions of ORCA for the sole purpose of continuing their relentless attack on the school while posturing themselves as protectors of public education.
The letter did not address the true substance of either Hovde's commentary or the ongoing battle between OEA and ORCA.

So I'll have to stand by my position. That doesn't mean suppression.

The O could have requested a revised submittal form the OEA.
Like they certainly would have done had ORCA submitted a piece targeting the OEA in that fashion.

Instead it appears the OEA gets a green light to craft anything for publication.

Rob Kremer said...

Well, I have to say, anon, your position is well argued.

Maybe Mike Francis will come back and chime in again. I'd be interested to know: Mike - does the O use any discretion on letters that go up to the line of deceit and demagoguery, even if from a "legitimate" source?

I am Coyote said...

I agree with Mike Francis as well. And Rob in that legitimate source organizations should have a wider margin as opposed to "letters."

However the higher road for the Oregonian would be to then provide some follow up to the source organization: "OK you said it...Now here are all our concerns with the obvious discrepancies."

If organizations like the OEA were to have their feet held to the fire by a large news organization like the "O", for blatant and obvious discrepancies, they would most certainly be more careful in the future.

And the effect, over time, would be a much more honest public dialogue on issues like this.

AND... It would cause thousands more Oregonian readers to take notice and bolster their reputation as the 4th pillar of democracy.

But what do I know... I'm merely brilliant. heh

yip yip

Anonymous said...

"if organizations like the OEA were to have their feet held to the fire by a large news organization like the "O", for blatant and obvious discrepancies, they would most certainly be more careful in the future."

You're dreaming. One division of an organization hold the others feet to the fire? Even if that occurred, it would never be made public. (you of all people should know about the BS at the "O" and their lack of integrity)

And before you ask; The "O" & the OEA are from birth. Call them Evil twins.

Mike Francis said...

Once more putting my silhouette on the skyline ... I'm not only evil: I must be stupid.

I don't have enough time to go back and count up letters in order to argue that we have been known to gore oxen on both sides, but I'll share one that I made sure to include one week when I was filling in as Letters editor:

Hugh was right

Hugh Garrabrant's letter was right on target. Your paper is so one-sided ( liberal), it is pathetic.


I happen to disagree with her sentiment, but I liked her directness and wanted, in a small way, to help her feel as if she was heard.

We do our best to fact-check, and when we have seen page proofs that contain letters that misstate established facts, we pull them. But the brutal truth is that one person is assigned the duty of sifting the 400-500 or letters we get each week by email, fax and regular mail, selecting a handful that represent reader sentiment and making sure, in controversial matters, to reflect the viewpoints from opposing sides. (This sifting process usually involves checks of the archives, double-checks on identities and addresses and telephone calls to writers, whether to establish his/her bona fides or just to clear up a grammatical glitch.) Then, by about noon every day, that person has to format and lay in the boxes, headlines and flow the type onto the (virtual) page. When everything finally fits, which, believe me, often is a challenge, the letters editor prints out the page proof and circulates it to the whole editorial department, just so more eyes will be brought to bear on the next day's page.

Obviously the process is unscientific and imperfect, but like everything else we do to publish the next day's paper, it's something of a minor miracle that all the moving parts can be assembled as well as they are. Speaking for myself, this is what I think about when I hear readers (on both right and left) accuse us of institutional bias and information manipulation. While I know that every human being, including all of us in this building, walk around with a set of personal biases, the fact is, it would be deucedly difficult to advance an evil agenda by imposing a higher will on every process, all the way down to the selection of a letter to the editor. There's just too much going on and we're not that good at following orders anyway.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a funny paper to help put out.

Anonymous said...

Comin' at 'ya ... I wonder what the paper would say about *this* union-only turn in Congress. (As if this wouldn't be spiked. Wink, wink. Remember how Sam Newhouse busted the New Unions to get his monopoly?)

It turns out that Congress and Obama are defining 'green jobs' in the Stimulus as 'union jobs'.

This is from Associated Builders and Contractors, a group comprised mostly of small businesses.

"Congressional Green Jobs Hearing
On Tuesday, March 31, the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections of the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing to examine green jobs and their role in our nation’s economic recovery.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act set aside $50 billion in grants and tax incentives to promote energy efficiency and the renewable energy sector. Congress also approved the Green Jobs Act in 2007, a program to help train American workers for jobs in the renewable energy and energy-efficiency industries. While these investments will likely lead to more construction jobs in the future, there are some exclusionary union-friendly provisions in the Green Jobs Act that concern ABC contractors (see article below). For those of you in the construction industry, I have attached an article from BNA Construction Labor report that summarizes the hearing succinctly.

In addition, interest groups are trying to promote a widely accepted definition of green jobs as jobs that are unionized. This is troubling to ABC merit shop contractors because any efforts to exclude 84 percent of the private construction workforce – those who do not belong to construction labor unions – from participating in construction projects that are limited to a non-inclusive definition of green collar jobs, will not advance the goals of creating jobs for all as well as helping the environment. Other associations in different industries share similar concerns."

Anonymous said...

When the day comes that the "O" closes it will be a great day. No tears please, they brought it on themselves.

Mike, did you learn your glibness from Bobby C.? Probably and too bad.

SMDG said...

Thank you - Rob - I'm new to this debate and with two high school students who RELY on virtual classrooms to successfully complete their education (I have two younger daughters still in public school) I am very interested in getting my own education about his huge issue.
I read the letter and it felt like rhetoric and lies - but I had no proof. Thanks for helping me out. I've a lot to learn.

anon 906 again said...

It take from your feedback that I was spot on.

You confirmed that you do have a policy to

"fact-check, and when we have seen page proofs that contain letters that misstate established facts, we pull them."

However it appears since you have only one person on the sifting process there's no reason or time to scrutinize established sources such as the OEA?

So while that one person is busy on other letters there's no time or interest in scrutinizing the OEA submission.

And since the OEA letter was so carefully worded it wasn't too tough to defend as an innocent "response to a column" that some may have found to be "arguments that were misleading and unpersuasive".

But the rub is the OEA letter was indeed out of line and the opposite would not have made it past the one O person or the editor had ORCA submitted a piece using the OEA approach.

The OEA response to the Hovde piece was an act of attacking with misrepresentations and false accusations, the character and circumstances of ORCA's operation, instead of trying to disprove the truth of the Hovde commentary.

IMO the OEA has grown far too comfortable and brazen knowing they'll get a pass.
Perhaps it's time to reign them in with some real world scrutiny and fairness.

Heck an added editorial comment [ORCA is an Oregon non-profit corporation] would have been prudent.

On the up side, I appreciate your chiming in here.
Thank you for doing so.

rural resident said...

Latest test scores have ORCA students beating the state averag(y)e by 9 points on reading. And remember - it is doing this with about half the per-student dollars!]

Actually, ORCA is getting quite a bit more than 50% of normal funding. It's funding comes through the Scio School District. (ORCA apparently isn't considered a charter school.) The State School Fund page for Scio shows that ORCA is getting $5,818 per ADMw (weighted student) in SSF money, versus $6,096 for GAPS (95.4%), $6,117 for Lake Oswego (95.1%), and $6,247 for West Linn-Wilsonville (93.1%). The discrepancy comes from the lack of ESL and IEP funding for ORCA students.

It also isn't getting some federal funding. I compared ORCA with Crook County, a brick and mortar district of about equal ADMr. CC (which gets $6,149 per ADMw) gets about $3 million more in Special Account funding, no doubt because it has students on site. The difference in funding here is approximately $1,260 per ORCA student ($3M divided by 2,380 students). I'm not exactly sure why ORCA doesn't quality for this money. I also don't know why they're not getting IEP money, since North Bend's web academy seems to qualify for this extra funding. Maybe you can enlighten me.

When you look at all sources of funding, ORCA, through the Scio district, is getting about 78.5% of the per-student funding that Crook County gets in a traditional setting.

Anonymous said...

I was appalled at the letter, but then cackled with evil glee when I realized this was a publication much of Oregon reads; the misrepresentations made by the OEA were on display for all to see.

I mentioned it to my husband who takes no interest in public issues. Because he knows little about charter schools, the OEA, etc, he didn't see the problem with the contents of the OEA's letter.

He was disappointed for a family member who attends an online school, maybe ORCA? But said, "If it's causing problems it's probably for the best."

"No darling! I can't let you take that path!" (cue bucket of ice water suspended over hubby's recliner)

There are thousands of people just like him who, not knowing the back story, and giving the benefit of the doubt to a large association, assumed Gail Rasmussen's arguments were legitimate.

Not to worry; I make him wear a shock collar when reading the "O"

Anonymous said...

If the paper printed something that is blatantly false then is there any recourse through the Ombudsman?

Anonymous said...

Mike Francis (up thread) in on the Oregonina editorial board.

IMO the discussion wiht him, above, led to the lead editorial in yesterday's paper in which the board supports ORCA and calls for their survival.

Of course the board held back from full endorsement of virtual schools in their recommending an unnecessary review.

But they couldn't completely punt the OEA now could they?

Mike Francis should be appreciated for chimming in here and providing the editorial.

Mike Francis said...

Actually, I didn't write it. But we had a good discussion about the subject and the editorial reflected it.

Stand by for more letters on the subject on Tuesday.